Sunday, July 24, 2011
A SARATOGA TRADITION
It's that time of year again when Saratogians rent their homes to incoming ballet, track and summer fans. The following article was my first published writing piece ever and describes our preparations and the exciting final 36 hours leading up to our exit the summer of 2009. We just moved out of our home again and a new article is in the works. Enjoy and if you are a homeowner who habitually rents out their home or first timers, please share your experiences.
It is a yearly Saratoga phenomenon; when teems of local residents vacate their homes to rent to the summer crowds. Hundreds of seemingly emotionally and financially stable Saratogians sign contracts, clean and de-clutter their homes and ultimately move out and find new digs while someone takes over their home. While the financial rewards are considerable, home owners in many cases earn every penny as the preparations are intense and the homelessness inconvenient.
Our family enters our sixth season of renting this summer and five out of six have been for the full season. Preparations for the 2009 season start December of 2008, when our realtor contacts us to update our website information and confirm its accuracy. One year we had a rental by January, but this year there are no bites until March. First, we contact our 2007, 2008 gentlemen renters and they politely decline. So we move ahead with new unknown summer renters.
The time between March and April passes uneventfully as we sign leases, receive deposits and speak occasionally with the realtor. Conversations with my friends who rent are frequently peppered with “Do you have someone yet? Is it the same people as last year? How long are you renting for?” The rare bold question is “How much are they paying?” No one is panicked in the spring.
And then late June comes, the final payments are in, it occurs to one that you only have five weeks remaining in your home and you need to start sorting and cleaning. We start by categorizing and recycling our children’s school papers as well as our own. Trips are made to the Salvation Army with clothing and we have our annual stoop sale. The experience of annually ridding our home of unnecessary items is cathartic and welcome.
My husband and I in early July start eyeing our teenage son’s room, anticipating and dreading the emotional and physical energy it will require to put his room in shape. Up until fall of 2008, our two sons had shared a room and somehow the younger ones presence had kept the older one’s true self at bay. But now, my older son has had full reign in the room, unplugged, unedited, undone. Throughout the past nine months, we had issued daily warnings, comments and suggestions with unsatisfactory success. We start him packing boxes the first week of July and we feel hopeful.
On Monday July 20th, we have a family meeting to plan the next ten days to our exit on Tuesday July 28th at 3pm. I get out the chalkboard and we name our project “Operation Escape,” which goes at the top of the chalkboard. Underneath our inspirational heading I list every day and what we need to accomplish each day. In addition to packing ourselves up to live at my mom’s and de-cluttering our home, we include our to do list: return library books, banking, teaching, recycling and changing our mail. Finally, we boldly list two ambitious projects we hope to accomplish prior to our exit - wash the exterior of the house and finish the taxes. I am the eternal optimist.
On the evening of July 20th my husband’s family arrives from New York to help my husband with his sailboat and they go sailing on Tuesday. Our “Operation Escape” chart is ignored and we reconfigure on Wednesday. They depart Wednesday afternoon and we go back to fulltime work on the house.
Thursday morning, I walk with my neighbor who is also a habitual renter. Although she does not have a chalkboard family list, she has her own personal to do list and cleaning the shower is one of three things on her list today. Her efforts to ready the house will be thwarted by a houseful of company over the weekend and into Tuesday. We check in over the next couple of days to commiserate and give the update.
By Friday, we see progress. We proudly get out our chart and are able to erase off the do list: playroom, my youngest son’s room, living room, and third floor. My teenage son’s room, although it has seen improvement, remains a source of stress and we are concerned that it could be our undoing. Friday afternoon I cajole my sons and one of their friends to wash the house siding by our back garden entrance. There is a fair amount of horsing around but they clean it well and we reward ourselves with root beer floats in the backyard. It is a great Saratoga summer afternoon. Life is good.
Apparently, we feel that we deserve a break and we go sailing for two full days on Saturday and Sunday July 25th and 26th. We manage to not think about what waits for us at home and what extreme effort lies ahead on Monday and Tuesday. Arriving home Sunday at 6pm, we unpack, accomplish a few more chores and hit the hay early to ready ourselves for the final 30 hours of “Operation Escape.”
Monday July 27th, finds my six year old, husband and I washing the siding on the front of the house by 9am. My teenage son (the time management expert) refuses to help or work on his room as he says;” I have plenty of time.” At one point my husband has his head in his hands and declares my eldest son’s room akin to kryptonite; he is weakened every time he enters the room. I manage to get both my husband and son back on task. A good friend hosts my younger son for the rest of the day for a play date. We are grateful.
The rest of Monday passes in a blur as we continue to pack our clothes, clean out draws, closets, take down posters, box up toys, sort paper and earn a living teaching dance in between. My mom comes by for my youngest to gather him for dinner and an overnight. I take a short nap on my Saratoga porch, enjoying the breeze and mourning how much I will miss it. All my clothes are packed by 4:20 and I am feeling good about my day until I receive a phone call from the realtor that the renters would like a full size bed in one of the bedrooms not the two twins. What?? I had imagined the sheets and blankets I would use and how I would dress the beds. All for naught. My husband is teaching at the studio and I decide to deal with this when he comes home.
I break the news to my son and husband around 6pm. After considering our options, we decide to bring a futon mattress from the third floor down and put it on top of the antique twin beds pushed together. It looks ridiculous as the mattress is not as wide as the two beds. We had considered putting the two beds together but the mattresses are different heights. Suddenly, I remember another twin mattress on the third floor in the Jacuzzi room and yes after my son measures the height, it will work. I disappear downstairs as the guys heave mattresses up and down stairs. In the end it works and it is decided that I will go and purchase king size sheets at Target the next day in my “spare time.”
By evening we are in good shape, packed to travel, possessions are secured on the third floor and in the basement. The kitchen remains the final frontier for Tuesday. The cleaning people are scheduled to arrive at 9:30. Our final night of sleep is short and with great enthusiasm and no energy we look forward to the “Final Day.”
D-Day, Tuesday July 28th has arrived and we are working by seven with a piece of fruit to sustain us until breakfast at 10:45. We manage to get my eldest son out of bed and working by 8:30 and his eyes are swollen from lack of sleep. This is the first year that he is really involved in the exit process. He resents the work, the change and what he sees as the intrusion. My husband and I are holding up well.
I have set a goal for us to be off the second floor (bedrooms) completely so that the cleaning staff can clean easily, thoroughly and quickly. The cleaning staff arrives at 10:00, starts on the third floor bath and we are off the second floor by 10:45 and take our breakfast break. Every time we eat in the last two days, it has been an exercise in cleaning out the fridge. This time is no different. My son is not thrilled with his breakfast.
Everything we are taking with us is piled in the dining room, adjacent to the kitchen and near the back door exit. We are literally making our way out the door. One of the renters shows up at noon, saying that she was told she could move in then. I politely remind her that the lease says 3pm and that we need all the time allotted. I escort her back to the front door, close the door and go back to work.
And now for the kitchen and the fridge. For how much room the fridge takes up in our home, it remains the most intense work area. We sort food to be tossed, food to go into the cooler to be transported to my mom’s fridge, food to be moved to the downstairs fridge and then we repeat the process with the freezer. I make decisions as to the foods’ destiny and my son and husband execute. Then my son and husband take out every shelf and drawer and clean it in soapy water, rinse, dry and replace it. My six year old calls from my mom’s missing us and asking if I could bring over his wallet, his money for the bank and his Buzz Light Year piggy bank. I have remembered the first two and promise to do my best on the third. We miss him too and will be reunited by 3:30.
At some point, I head over to Target and purchase the king size sheets. I make the trip in a succinct 35 minutes and they work great. The cleaning people are efficient, pleasant and flexible and the five of us work around and with each other for the last two hours to make our 3pm goal. We all are doing what it takes to get the job done. In the morning, my son had the occasional breakdown that I got him through but now with 90 minutes left, there is no sign of that. After every job is completed, he says, “What’s next?” If only.
At 2:53 the renter shows up again and I invite her to sit on the porch. We are wiping the last counter, vacuuming the kitchen floor and straightening the last pillow.
The house looks pristine; no signs of clutter, plenty of sparkle and ready for inspection.
My husband, son and I take everything out to the van and come back in to welcome the renters. By this time, the other two renters are gathering on the front porch and I welcome them in at 3:03pm.
I thank and pay the wonderful cleaning people and then take up my job as tour guide. The women seemed pleased as I show them around, explain appliances and go over security. My husband takes over the technology part of the tour and exchanges phone numbers. I give the garden tour as I will be watering while in town at my mom’s and they will be in charge while we travel.
We climb into the car and head over to my mom’s, a mere mile away, and look forward to showers and lunch. I know for a fact that I smell and look like I smell. The renters looked surprised when I said we were professional dancers. We arrive at my mom’s, gather our younger son in our arms and have sandwiches and showers. My husband heads out the door an hour later to teach at 5pm. I am in awe of his stamina and calm. I opt to go out to dinner with my mom and the kids.
A week has gone by since our dramatic exit and now we experience the aftermath of our move. Currently the checkbook, my younger son’s socks, my bathing suit bottoms and some cash are still at large. We manage to miss my son’s eye appointment twice, have yet to complete the taxes and make my mother cry within three days of our arrival. However, like a new mom who vows never to go through childbirth again, we have forgotten the pain and are readying ourselves for next year’s rental.
Diane L. Lachtrupp